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On the customs of the wolf.

One inquires further into the customs of certain other animals.

And first we make inquiry of the wolf, why it is more wrathful before a meal than after, since the opposite is so for a human.

Second, one inquires why, when it has grown old, it preys upon a human more frequently than it did in its youth.

Third, why, if it seizes a human, it does not eat his face but only the other members.

Fourth, why a wolf is more timid in the forest than in a field.

Fifth, why they are so few even though several are produced from one act of coition, whereas among sheep only one young is produced from a single act of coition and yet they are more numerous.

Sixth, why a wound caused by a wolf is difficult to heal.

To the first question one should reply that the wolf is an especially gluttonous animal, and this is why, when its hunger is not satisfied, it often lies in wait for its prey, and thus it attacks whatever is offered to it. But when it is satisfied, it does not need prey, and this is why at this time it is gentler. But the opposite is the case for the human, because, when one power is chiefly occupied in a human, the operation of any other power recedes. An example is clear to see in a person preoccupied with imagining, who does not then perceive what is presented to his sight. But after a meal a person's natural power is very much intent upon digestion, and for this reason the animal powers are dulled at that time, and he is more easily provoked to anger, because anger is a bubbling-up of the blood around the heart, and there especially occurs a bubbling of the blood at that time; for this reason, etc.

To the second question one must reply that the wolf, when it is young, is better suited for motion, and at that time it lives off wild prey and seeks to seize wild prey. But when the wolf has grown old, it cannot seize wild prey, and this is why it then seeks out villages and ambushes humans and domestic animals; for this reason, etc.

To the third question one should reply that the wolf preys on a human and yet fears him a great deal, and because a person is known by his face, the wolf especially fears the face and does not dare to attack his face.

To the fourth question one must reply that because the wolf is a timid animal, it frequently thinks that trees are humans, but when it is in the field it can look around in all directions better and take precautions for itself, and this is why it is bolder outside the forest than in the forest.

To the fifth question one must reply that the wolf does not engage in coition often. For the young ones naturally do not have coition while their parents are alive, but this is not so for sheep or for many other animals, and this is why wolves are so few. Moreover, a she-wolf rarely conceives from coition, because she is an animal that is frequently in motion, and this is why, even though she gives birth to many at one time, nevertheless this happens but rarely, and this is why wolves are few.

To the last question one should reply that just as a wolf's eye is poisonous (because its eye infects the air near to it and this infected air infects another, and so on, as far as the human's sight, and this is why the sight of a wolf often renders a person hoarse,[1] because the infected air that the person then breathes in infects the chest, and this is the cause of the hoarseness), so too its teeth are poisonous and sources of infection. This is why they cause wounds that are cured only with great difficulty.

  • [1] The common belief was that if the wolf saw you first, you lost your voice. Your only hope was to spot a wolf before it saw you. The belief is quite old. See Plato, Republic 1 (336d-e).
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